A new months-long investigation conducted by the News Sentinel exposes a large problem of tax-payers being held liable for the negligent actions of police officers; rarely are the officers ever held accountable.
The News Sentinel looked back through three years of claims against the Knox County Sheriff's Office and the Knoxville police department. What they found was that no matter the cost and the conduct, law enforcers involved in claims rarely were fired, whether they acted badly, violated someone’s civil rights or simply fouled up.
In one case, the News Sentinel Reports, a deputy remains employed at KCSO despite being involved in three separate incidents, two of which cost taxpayers $50,000 in total damages. The third case is pending in U.S. District Court, and, so far, the county is losing that legal fight. Another deputy twice accused of brutality in cases costing taxpayers $43,000 also is still on the job.
In fact, in the three year probe, only one case of officers being fired and criminally prosecuted was found. Only because the incident was caught on so many cameras and in full view of citizens in the neighborhood were these officers fired. However, they received 1 year of probation only after admittedly beating and kicking a homeless man who was cuffed and hogtied on the ground.
The largest and most recent payout was to Abraham Dudley who was shot, unarmed and complying with police orders. Knoxville Police Department Officer Christopher Edmonds was responding to a domestic dispute call in the parking lot of West Town Mall. A gun shot rang out follow by Edmonds screaming, “Oh, shit,” after realizing that he'd just shot a man for no reason.
“I was shocked,” Dudley told the News Sentinel in a recent interview. “I really didn’t even know I was shot, I guess, when the bullet hit. I fell to the ground. I was just scared and hoping I wouldn’t die.”
The bullet from Edmonds’ gun struck the 32-year-old Dudley in the back, just 2 inches from his spine.
The tax-payers of Knoxville were held to the fire for $293,000 for the irresponsible and negligent actions of Edmonds.
According to Dudley, he's yet to even receive an apology.
While Sheriff Jimmy Jones refused to be interviewed regarding this investigation, KPD Chief, David Rausch contends that just because the city pays out a settlement doesn't mean that the officer was at fault.
“There are times where we pay out when there aren’t screw-ups,” he said. “That’s unfortunate. You’re not admitting guilt just because you paid (a claim).”
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According to the Sentinel's investigation, in cases involving alleged police misconduct, some payouts came after lawsuits were filed.
In others, however, the mere threat of a very public legal fight prompted a quiet settlement.
Cheif Rausch's claim is hard to prove without these cases going to trial. However, it's the going to trial part that police tend to avoid in most cases civil and criminal.
For example, despite an overwhelming amount of questionable executions by Florida police, and countless protests since the 90s, not a single officer has been charged with using deadly force in the past 20 years, the New York Times reported.
The system is intended to protect police. When investigations are done behind the thin blue line, by the departments themselves, how can anyone expect justice?
“When you are charging a police officer with a crime, you are essentially asking most jurors to look at the world upside down: The good guys are in the defendant’s spot, prosecuting police officers successfully is a difficult task even in the strongest cases.” David A. Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who specializes in law enforcement behavior told the Times.
Forget about civil suits for a minute and look at the amount of police officers who've actually been convicted of a crime but allowed to keep their jobs.
Last week an LMPD Cop caused a SWAT standoff while driving drunk, yet he remains a police officer. Another example is Officer Dale Reising from Vermillion city, who broke into the police department and stole a car. Yet he still kept his job.
Accountability is not one of law enforcement's strongest traits. That is why it is up to us to hold their feet to fire. If we see injustice it is our duty to film it and expose those responsible.
While this only one investigation, conducted in only one town, it is most likely the norm, and not the exception.
In Chicago for instance, officer John Silas shot a teen and lied about it, causing this teen to spend 14 months in jail. Even after he was acquitted and won a $700,000 lawsuit, Silas remains a cop.
In April we reported the story of officer Chad R. Moyer and Officer Gregory Hadfield, who cost the taxpayers of Springettsbury Township a half million dollars in payouts of separate lawsuits, yet they both remain cops.
Until officers are held individually liable for their irresponsible actions, this blank check of negligence will continue to grow, and continue to be passed on to the backs of those who do not deserve to carry its weight, the US taxpayer.